Improving Kubuntu's translations

Harald Sitter apachelogger at
Mon May 4 10:33:41 BST 2009


Within the last couple of days we, at Kubuntu, have been working out a list of 
major issues we are facing with the current translation process. They are of 
considerable impact since I know quite some people who actually decided to not 
translate Kubuntu any longer, or even stopped using it. But not only users are 
affected, I think if we continue to ship Kubuntu with such poor quality we 
will also see a decrease in contributors as well. Why would somone who lives 
in France, spend his spare time on Kubuntu when he can't even make his mom or 
brother use it because they wouldn't understand half the system.

First off I'd like to direct your attention to
Which provides a set of pictures documenting the state of translation in 
Kubuntu and openSUSE, starting with 8.04. It especially gives a quite good 
impression of what is going on in-development and how the end result relates 
to that. Now, I know that especially for language packs there is a certain 
need for short-term breakage, however it happens way too often for Kubuntu 
(and I would suppose Ubuntu as well). This prevents sensible QA as well as 
using the product.

One of the most incredible things that happened in the 9.04 cycle were, that 
the pkgbinarymangler (i.e. the component that is responsible for stripping 
translations from packages, in favor of the ubuntu language packs) was changed 
to remove translations from desktop files. Incredible is that no one told the 
Kubuntu devs beforehand, that no one even tested if that change would cause 
problems, that this change was done less than a month before release.
Such things just can not happen anymore.

It is this and a lot of smaller regressions that drain Kubuntu's development 
performance (change all of upstream KDE's langauge packs to include the proper 
desktop file .pots is certainly no fun and not done within a couple of 

So here comes the list of issues:

I'd like to mention that this page's content is based upon known behaviour, if 
that knowledge is wrong and the status quo is in fact completely different it 
is all the better. The document also comes with suggestions on how to solve 
some of these issues, those are really just suggestions of what we think might 
be a good solution, then again we are neither working on Rosetta's code nor do 
we use it for stuff other than importing, so discussion between people who 
actually do is probably necessary. I also want to note that this is not meant 
to insult anyone or anyone's work, it is merely a list of issues that need to 
be taken care of ASAP in order to ensure that Kubuntu 9.10+ come with as 
complete translations as possible.

However in the long run I recommend Canonical to seek direct advise from 
upstream (at least for the KDE side of things), they have years of experience 
in large scale translation and deployment, not using this knowledge to improve 
the Ubuntu translation process would be a waste. Maybe invite some upstream 
translators to UDS (sometime)?

Anyway, enough said for now.
Please take a look at the document and give it a thought.

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